In a contentious battle involving Muslim supremacist rights, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Pittsfield Township, alleging it unlawfully denied a religious group the right to build an Islamic school on a vacant plot of land.
Detroit Free Press In the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court, the federal government accused the charter township of breaking the law in denying zoning approval to the Michigan Islamic Academy, which wants to build a school on undeveloped land that sits next to a residential subdivision known as Silverleaf.
The property, which sits just south of Ann Arbor, had been approved in the mid-1990s as a housing project and did not include schools as a permitted use, so the academy requested the property be rezoned to allow the school.
“Pittsfield Township representatives … assured them that as long as MIA followed the proper procedures, rezoning the property to allow a school would not be a problem,” the lawsuit claimed.
But in August 2011, after a heated public meeting that lasted until 1:30 a.m., the township’s Planning Commission denied MIA’s rezoning request. According to court documents, the township cited these reasons: The project did not involve a “small-scale school” as required by the township’s Master Plan; traffic would be disruptive; and noise and light from outdoor activities would be disruptive.
MIA, which is currently located in Ann Arbor, sought to build in Pittsfield Township because its current facility is not big enough for a cafeteria, computer or science labs, a gym, locker rooms, auditorium, library, or adequate administrative office space. The Pittsfield location was especially desirable, the suit states, because it is only eight miles from the academy’s current location, and roughly 60 percent of its student body lives in or near Pittsfield Township.